Chronic respiratory diseases prevention and control


Chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis and lung cancer, are major causes of illness and death among Africans. These may start in childhood through exposure to infection, indoor air pollution and tobacco smoke and cause great disability and eventual death in older adults.

Chronic respiratory diseases have received little attention in the Region but an emerging body of evidence suggests that the burden of disease attributable to them is substantial and underrecognized.

Asthma prevalence is rising in Africa, possibly due to increased urbanization and air pollution.

A Global burden of disease study estimated the global prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to be 9.33 per 1000 people for men and 7.33 per 1000 for women. In sub-Saharan Africa, the rates are 4.41 per 1000 for men and 2.49 per 1000 for women.

As the world’s population ages, these estimates are projected to rise to alarming levels in the context of the continued exposure to potential risk factors such as tobacco smoke, biomass fuels and environmental dusts.

It is important to note that infectious diseases prevalent in the Region, such as tuberculosis, have a powerful impact on respiratory disease.

Studies in South Africa found that a history of tuberculosis infection was the commonest risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Infection with HIV has a very poor prognosis in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as it often leads to rapid decline in lung function.

WHO supports Member States in their efforts to reduce the toll of disease, disability and premature death related to chronic respiratory diseases.